In his regular biweekly interview with public Kossuth radio, Prime Minister Orbán said this morning that it is probably that in retrospect we will consider 2022 as the year in which we Europeans enters the era of threats.
‘We have entered a dangerous era that was not apparent when the pandemic started. After that, there was a conflict, followed by an oil crisis. Since then, migration has continued to rise, placing a greater strain on our borders than it did during the invasion in 2015.’
The Prime Minister noted that there are two approaches to combating the threats under the present circumstances. Hungarians could decide to behave like a hedgehog, curling up and raising our spikes, but that also paralyzes and freezes the body, making it a self-harming tactic. ‘The most important factor for Hungarians is to respond actively to threats’, the PM opined, and noted that Hungarians did just that in 2022.
He reminded that the Hungarian government ‘erected defence lines’ last year in response to the threats, by for example establishing the overhead protection fund, adding that a similar mentality must also be adopted regarding difficulties in 2023. The Prime Minister remarked that if the government had not sustained the capped energy prices, ‘at least one million families would have been ruined in Hungary.’
The Sanctions Have Failed
Regarding the sanctions, the Prime Minister declared that it is high time there was a courageous person in Brussels who will admit that the sanctions policy has been botched and was miscalculated. ‘We have messed up badly,’ Viktor Orbán remarked, stressing that inflation would be halved immediately if the sanctions were lifted now. While he does voice his opinion to this effect in Brussels, and more and more European politicians now share his view, what the leader of Hungary can do is just damage control. ‘It is a major country like France or Germany’ that needs to take the lead in confronting the harsh reality of the ineffectiveness of the sanctions that ‘have harmed Europe the most.’
The Prime Minister stated that his confidence in the German government’s ability to manage crises effectively has been shaken, expressing his belief that the ‘the clumsiness’ with regard to the sanctions will continue. The PM said it is inevitable for European leaders to approach energy companies and tell them that a windfall tax will be imposed on them, but also explain that this is a temporary, short-time measure. As opposed to the companies that have made extra profits, the European people are the victims of the failed sanctions strategy.
The Erasmus Controversy: The Government Will Not Give In
Commenting on the recent indication by the funding of the EU Erasmus student exchange programme will be discontinued for foundation-run universities as of next year, the Prime Minister stated that the situation will not have any negative effects on Hungarian students. He said although the government will attempt to clarify the situation with the Commission, and the issue may be resolve, should that not be the case the Hungarian government will provide the necessary funding. He underscored that Hungary needs ‘intelligent students’ and any expenditure that contributes to educating bright young people is ‘an investment in our future’.
The Prime Minister stressed that criticisms of the restructured Hungarian education system are absurd. While one of the reasons cited for the Commission’s move has been that active politicians serve on university boards of trustees, the same can be said about a number of higher education institutions in Western Europe as well, Viktor Orbán reminded.
The PM then stated that in fact, Brussels wanted a government change last year, and when it failed to achieve it, they decided to punish Hungarian students. The Prime Minister said what Brussels is doing is attempting to force the Hungarian government to allow migrants in and to allow LGBTQ education in schools, but the idea that ‘people belonging to that group would tell our children nonsense’ ‘in schools just gives us the creeps.’ Seeing that the Hungarian government has stood its ground, Brussels has now launched a ‘vendetta’ on Hungarian youth.
Hungary’s Finances are Sound
In terms of the Hungarian budget and reserves, Orbán declared: ‘Our financial reserves are at a historic high: partly due to the overhead fund, partly because we have prepared for the era of threats. Now Brussels must face the fact that the sun keeps rising without them and the rooster keeps crowing here. Hungary cannot be backed into a corner, we can get by on our own.’ He added that ‘The Hungarian economy, thank you very much, is doing well.’ He reminded that despite the economic challenges, there has not been a significant increase in unemployment in Hungary. He said he was confident that wages would continue to increase in 2023, and highlighted that a major objective of the government is to push inflation down to single digit levels in 2023.